(The correct answer to the question, "Ralphie, what would you like for Christmas?")
In every life, the world divides pretty neatly into all the things you need . . .
. . . the things you definitely don't need . . .
. . . and the one thing you need to own before you die. This thing is different for different people, of course, and (except in cases of severe developmental problems) it alters over the span of a single person's lifetime. So while Ralphie may have wanted a Red Ryder air gun in his nonage, his middle years may have felt hollow for want of a Ferrari Testa Rossa 250, let's say . . .
. . . or a cellared flagon of Pomerol in the proper year . . .
. . . both of which I have hankered after at various times of life, though for want of $16.4 million my Ferrari lust was bound to be unrequited. I knew it, and knowing it cooled my ardor after a time.
Still, there remains a bit of Ralphie in every geezer and Miguel is no exception. Idly searching the flyrods on Craigslist one dreary day in April, I chanced on an Orvis Battenkill two-piece Bakelite-impregnated seven-and-a-half foot six-weight with (not a compass in the stock, but) an Orvis Hardy-built CFO fly reel - all in immaculate condition. I said it all over again quickly, to myself, as though I were Ralphie answering The Question: "Ralphie, what would you like for Christmas?"
Nearly three months later I met its original owner and keeper of the tube on the main street of a Denver suburb. A stranger carrying an aluminum fly rod tube is no longer a stranger so far as I'm concerned. Not to mention that he stood out, as Raymond Chandler once wrote, "like a kangaroo in a dinner jacket." We walked to a park bench across the street, I unscrewed the cap to the tube, slid the rod sections out of their pouch, checked all the serial numbers (they matched), slipped one of the tips into the ferrule on the butt section, looked along a true span of Tonkin cane, and flexed it in a liquid arc above both our heads. The rod bent into a perfect bow behind and flexed forward in a mirror image. It felt fluid and powerful at once, much as I once might have said of a properly tended Chateau Petrus that it possessed both firmness of structure and delicacy of finish.
So I handed over my envelope of cash, screwed the cap onto the tube, gathered up my Hardy-built reel (Hardy, the reel maker with the royal warrant) and drove back down the interstate and home. This was yesterday. In one of life's cruel ironies, I'm in Kansas today and rising trout are thin on the ground out here.